Ecology: Can we expect another drought? Washington’s water supply outlook

Saturday, March 18, 2023

It’s the time of year when people start wondering whether we can expect a drought in the near future. After multiple droughts over the last several years the question “will there be water” is likely on a lot of people’s minds. For most of the state, we’re cautiously optimistic. A few areas may see some challenges.


You’ll often hear a lot of talk about snowpack, or the lack thereof, when discussing water supply. Many watersheds in Washington, such as the Wenatchee and Methow River Basins, depend heavily on snowpack from the Cascade Mountains. 

During the spring and summer months, melting snow runs off into streams. A weak snowpack in the winter can result in low streamflows in the spring and summer. Even a healthy snowpack can dry up quickly if the spring and summer are unseasonably warm.

Right now, statewide, snowpack is slightly above 100 percent of normal, with runoff statewide forecasted to be just shy of average. Some basins are a little higher or lower than average. Lurking beneath the snowpack are soil-moisture deficits resulting from a dry spring and summer. Soil-moisture conditions are causing runoff forecasts to be revised downward in some basins, especially in the Okanogan and Methow basins.

--Department of Ecology


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